New Years is a holiday celebrated by many cultures around the world in various different ways with great enthusiasm and anticipation. In China, they celebrate the new year at the beginning of their calendar which is somewhere around the 20th ofJanuary to the 20th of February. On that day they perform the lion and dragon dance, where people dress as lions and dragons and parade around the city to bring good luck, while visiting temples to seek good fortune and happiness in the New Year. There is also the lantern festival, where lanterns are lit and hung throughout the city to mark the end of the Chinese New Year, alongside many other activities. In Bangladesh, they call the new year "Pohela Boishakh", and they celebrate the New Year with many traditions such as the Mangal Shobhojatra, where people parade around the city in costumes, and people dress in traditional attires like kurtas and sarees. The Jews celebrate the New Year around September in a holiday called Rosh Hashanah, where they engage in drinking, feasting, and many other rituals.
In America, New Years is celebrated with a countdown and the Times Square Ball Drop, where a giant ball drops as it hits midnight. There are many firework displays all across the country, lovers also kiss at midnight as a sign of love, and people make New Year Resolutions in which people make goals for the New Year. Here, we will examine New Years and whether it is okay for a Muslim to celebrate and partake in its festivities.
New Years celebrations has had a long history across the world. In China, the festival originated with the monster Nian, which would appear at the end of winter to destroy livestock and crops. In ancient belief, the monster was scared of loud noises and the color red, this led to the tradition of using firecrackers and red decorations. In Bangladesh, the new year originated from the Indian King, Vishanka, and mention of the New Year is found in Hindu temples. But the earliest record of New Year traditions is found in ancient Mesopotamia. In Babylonia, they celebrated the New Year (Akitu), which began with the new moon after the spring equinox. In Assyria, it started near the autumn equinox. In Babylonia, they celebrated the new year in honor of the victory of their god Marduk over the goddess Tiamat. The history of New Year Resolutions came during the Babylonian times, where people would make promises to gain the favor of their gods.
Later traditions of New Years emerged in Rome. They celebrated the new year in March and held festivals in honor of their god, Mars (god of war). Julius Caesar reformed the Roman calendar and changed the New Year from March to January, named after the God Janus. In Medieval times, people celebrated the new year on March 25th and did not celebrate the New Year on January 1st due to its connection to pagan practices, till the coming of the Gregorian Calendar, which then solidified January 1st being the start of the new year.
Firstly, in Islam, celebrating the customs of non-believers is impermissible and Haraam. If we look at the history of the New Year traditions, we can see that these traditions come from (Mushrikeen) polytheists, such as the Babylonians, who believed in gods such as Marduk and Tiamat. And in Rome, they honored their gods on New Years as well such as Mars and Janus. The traditions of other New Years also come from the tradition of polytheists, the Bengali New Year comes from Hindu traditions as was inscribed on Hindu temples. Therefore, celebrating the customs of polytheists is completely haram. Rasulullah (SAW) said,
من تشبه بقوم فهو منهم
“Whoever imitates a nation will be amongst them.”
One meaning of this Hadith is that they will be raised on the Day of Judgement from amongst them. Therefore, those who celebrate such actions will be raised from them. The severity of the sin of polytheism (Shirk) in the Holy Qur’an is mentioned,
إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَن يُشْرَكَ بِهِۦ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَن يَشَآءُ ۚ وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِٱللَّهِ فَقَدِ ٱفْتَرَىٰٓ إِثْمًا عَظِيمًا ٤٨
“Indeed Allah does not forgive the one who associates partners with him, and he forgives everything else of whoever he wants, and whoever associates partners with Allah has committed a great sin.”
From this verse, we can understand the severity and how great the sin of polytheism truly is. Another reason why we should refrain from such celebrations is because it is a huge waste of money. According to this study, Americans spend on average $185.60 dollars on New Years celebrations. That is almost $200. That $200 could have gone to some charity organization, or to the poor, or to something beneficial such as building a school, or hospital. And if many Americans got together, they could make a real impact with $200. According to this article, it takes $60 to $200 million dollars to build a hospital. If a million Americans were to contribute $150, it would add up to $150 million. Another study shows that 92% of American adults celebrate New Year’s Eve. Therefore, if only a fraction of the people used their money for something useful, real progress could have been made. Allah Ta’ala states regarding those who waste,
إِنَّ ٱلْمُبَذِّرِينَ كَانُوٓا۟ إِخْوَٰنَ ٱلشَّيَـٰطِينِ ۖ وَكَانَ ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنُ لِرَبِّهِۦ كَفُورًۭا ٢٧
“Indeed, the wasters are like brothers to the devils, and Shaytan is ever ungrateful to his lord.”
Another reason we should not celebrate New Years is because during its celebrations, people are involved in major sins and obscene activities. At the New Years festivals, the genders are not segregated and are rather mushed up together in a large gathering. If we look back to the introduction, we are informed that lovers kiss at the time of midnight, this shows the obscene activity which occurs during New Years. In the Qur’an, Allah Ta’ala states,
وَقُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَـٰتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَـٰرِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ
“Say, to the believing women to lower their gazes and guard their chastity, and to not reveal their adornments.”
The Quran has clearly prohibited both men and women to refrain from immodesty and has commanded us to conduct ourselves with modesty and shame which is not found among the traditions of New Years.
In conclusion, Muslims should not celebrate the traditions of New Years due to its connection with pagan practices, such as the Babylonian and Roman gods, and is a waste of money and if that money were to go to a beneficial cause, it would have greatly benefited society in general and because of the practices which occur at a New Year's gathering.
So our duty as Muslims should be to spend the day as usual, making sure to pray all 5 salah, reading the Quran, going to masjid, etc. These unnecessary holidays should not affect our daily lives as a Muslim. Instead we should use this oppurtunity to reflect over our deeds of the previous year and strive to better ourselves for the future. May Allah Ta’ala give us tawfiq to protect us from Fitna. Ameen.